Newcastle United 2 Valencia 1

WITH Alan Smith’s move to Everton on the brink of collapse, Kevin Keegan last night promised to restore the shotshy striker to his former goalscoring glories.

Smith was close to completing a £3m transfer to Goodison Park in the middle of last week, only for Newcastle officials to pull the plug on the deal at the final minute and order the 27-year-old to continue training with the Magpies.

Smith’s desire to move to Merseyside, combined with a dreadful run of form that saw him fail to score a single senior goal in the whole of last season, led to the England international being booed onto the field as he made a 63rd-minute substitute appearance in Saturday’s 2-1 friendly win over Valencia.

Newcastle’s supporters appear to have decided that they no longer want Smith at their club, but as he prepares for Sunday’s Premier League opener at Manchester United, Keegan insists he is more than willing to work with the Yorkshireman in an attempt to help him recapture the form that once made him the most exciting young striker in English football.

“You’re only ever two or three games away from turning things around,”

said the Magpies manager.

“You could say the solution is mainly in the player’s hands, but the manager also helps.

“That’s what I’ll be doing with Alan Smith, as I’ve done with Damien Duff or any other player who has a problem with confidence or who goes through a spell where they’re not playing much and can’t get any continuity.

“I definitely think there’s a lot more to come from Alan.

He knows that and we know that, and that’s what we’re working to do. He’s a player who wants to be successful.

“He’s got a lot of desire. If he didn’t have any desire, I’d say you were wasting your time. But desire and hard work together u s u a l l y means you can turn it a r o u n d .

I ’ v e k n o w n lots of players turn t h e m s e l v e s around, and I know Alan will.”

With Newcastle’s powerbrokers splintering into opposing camps, Smith’s continued presence on Tyneside represents a significant victory for Keegan.

The Magpies manager has consistently championed the former Leeds striker’s cause and, while an improved offer from Everton could yet see him leave St James’ Park this month, Keegan’s high regard for the player is currently holding sway over managing director Derek Llambias’ desire to cash in.

With Newcastle short of attacking numbers in the continued absence of Mark Viduka and Shola Ameobi, Smith could well be involved in this weekend’s Premier League opener against his former employers at Old Trafford.

Keegan is also hoping to include both Michael Owen and Fabricio Coloccini in his squad for Sunday’s game, and the pair will both feature in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Thursday.

Coloccini watched Saturday’s win over Valencia from the St James’ Park directors’ box – owner Mike Ashley sat two rows behind him wearing a shirt with the defender’s name on his back – and while he has played very little preseason football because of the protracted nature of his transfer from Deportivo La Coruna, he could yet be involved this weekend.

Owen used his programme notes for Saturday’s match to admit he was “playing it by ear” in terms of this weekend’s game, but having returned to full training on Friday, it would not be a surprise to see the 28-year-old named among Newcastle’s substitutes in six days time.

“We’re monitoring the situation with Michael, but by about Wednesday or Thursday we should know,” said Keegan, who is still hoping to make another two signings before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. “It’ll be Michael himself deciding whether he’s fit enough to come into a Premier League game.

“It’s a decision that’ll be made on the evidence of training and a practice match. We may decide it’s not the right thing to do, or we may decide, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to do it’.

“I don’t think Fabricio’s fitness levels are quite the same as ours, but he trained (on Saturday morning) and he looks okay.

“His situation is a little bit like Michael – we’ll gauge his fitness over the next few days and it’ll show just how fit he is. If we think it’s too early, we won’t play him. But he could be on the bench at Old Trafford or he might even play (from the start).”

Coloccini watched Newcastle come from behind on Saturday as they signed off their pre-season programme with a well-received win.

Valencia provided sprightly opposition in a game that was delayed by two hours because of a problem with the Spanish side’s flight, and claimed a 38th-minute lead when Joaquin stole between Cacapa and Charles N’Zogbia to exploit David Silva’s flick-on.

If N’Zogbia is to start at leftback at Old Trafford ahead of Jose Enrique, he will have to be more alert to crosses coming in from the opposite flank.

Newcastle grew stronger as the second half wore on, and drew level 13 minutes from time when Duff eluded his marker to head home Danny Guthrie’s right-wing corner.

That appeared to be that, but James Milner grabbed a 90th-minute winner when he prodded home at the back post after Steven Taylor had headed against the upright.

NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Given; Beye (Bassong 85), Taylor, Cacapa (Edgar 85), N’Zogbia; Milner, Butt, Guthrie, Gutierrez; Martins (Smith 63), Duff. Subs (not used): Forster, Enrique, Geremi, Lua Lua.

VALENCIA (4-4-2): Hildebrand; Miguel, Albiol (Ruano 58), Helguera (Pedros 67), Moretti; Joaquin (Dominguez 46), Albelda, Baraja (Fernandes 58), Vicente (Garcia 73); Morientes (Villa 46), Silva (Angulo 46). Subs (not used): Panadero, Arizmendi, Zigic.